10 Things I Wish I Knew When I First Got Into Working Out
by Jordan Syatt January 4, 2014
Below is a letter I wrote to my past self outlining the top 10 things I wish I knew when I first got into working out.
Whether you’re a coach, athlete, or just someone who likes to workout, the information provided in this letter will drastically enhance your results.
I, better than anyone, know how much time, effort, and dedication you devote to studying all facets of training and nutrition. I also know you’ve seen fantastic results in your own personal transformation.
Congratulations! That, in and of itself, is an extraordinary accomplishment.
Now, if I know anything about you, I know the last thing you want is advice.
You take great pride in your independence and work ethic, and would much rather figure things out for yourself than accept help from an outside party.
I know that seems like the noble and respectable thing to do but, coming from your future self, it would be a huge mistake.
What if I told you that I’ve stumbled upon a way – a much easier and more enjoyable way – to get strong, look great naked, and live a healthy lifestyle?
Would you listen?
Would you heed my advice?
I certainly hope so because in the remainder of this letter I am going to give you the 10 pieces of advice that I wish I had been given when I first got into fitness.
Take it or leave it. Do with it what you want. But believe me when I say that you, and your future clients, will be drastically more successful if you use the information provided below.
1. You Can’t Out Train a Bad Diet
I know you don’t want to hear it but it’s the truth.
You run for hours on end, day in and day out, in the hopes of burning so many calories that what & how much you eat will have no consequence on your physique.
How’s that working out for you?
If memory serves me correctly, you aren’t too happy with how you look naked, you’re overly critical about everything you put into your mouth and, despite your endless bouts of exercise, you aren’t getting the results you want.
Sounds like something isn’t working.
Plain and simple – you can’t out train a bad diet. You can train as hard as you want, sweat ’till your eyes burn, and make yourself so sore it hurts to sit on the toilet…but you will never achieve your ultimate physique until you start eating properly.
Sure exercise can help as part of the equation, but research has consistently shown nutrition to be the most important factor when trying to maintain a lower body fat. A combination of both diet and exercise are better than either alone but – when push comes to shove – nutrition is king.
If you truly want to see extraordinary results then you need to get your nutrition dialed in. You don’t need a perfect diet (I’ll explain later on) but you do need to do the right things on a consistent basis.
I know you love working out and hate taking rest days but it’s important to understand that you won’t get fat if you take a day off.
I remember being a teenager and thinking “I need to trainevery single day!”
I figured if I took a day off then I would ruin all of my progress and get fatter by the minute.
Fortunately, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Not only will you not get fat if you take a day off, you’ll actually experience better results by giving your body the rest it needs.
I know it’s hard to believe but there’s a reason why the best athletes and figure competitors don’t work out every day: they know they need to give their body a break if they’re going to consistently look good and perform at their best.
So if taking a day off won’t make you fat, how many days per week should you train?
Depending on goals and preferences,all of my clientsand I train between 3-4 days per week.
Day’s off might include some light aerobic exercise, yoga, or similar movement-related physical activity but absolutely nothing stressful.
Remember: training will only be successful if you allow your body sufficient time to rest, recuperate, and grow.
3. Very Few Supplements Actually Work
Most supplements are a waste of time and money.
As a teenager I used to believe the ridiculous supplement advertisements…
Granted, I wouldn’t recommend that diet to anyone (and neither would the professor) but it’s important to understand that there is no single food that will inherently cause you to get fat.
Rather, the sum and substance of your total daily caloric intake will dictate if you gain, lose, or maintain your weight.
5. Flexible Dieters are MORE Successful than Rigid Dieters
I remember going to parties and not letting myself eat or drink any of the “unhealthy” foods. While I wore my devotion to clean eating like a badge of honor, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous of all the kids enjoying themselves and the delicious food.
I, like many others, believed I would ruin all of my progress and instantly get fat if I so much as nibbled on an ice cream sandwich.
Man, that sucked.
Fortunately, I now understand that’s not how the body works; no single food will inherently make me fat and ruin all of my progress.
What’s really interesting, though, is research has shown that rigid dieters are LESS successful than flexible dieters.
In other words, those who don’t allow themselves any leeway in their diet to enjoy a treat here and there generally experience worse long-term results.
So what am I suggesting?
Don’t be afraid to have a damn ice cream sandwich or any of your favorite treats! You won’t get fat from indulging every so often and will actually benefit from giving yourself a psychological break from dieting.
Relax, have fun, and enjoy yourself. Flexible dieting will benefit you (and those around you) far more than rigid dieting ever will.
6. Train for Performance, NOT Aesthetics
It wasn’t until I stopped training for aesthetics and started training for performance that I truly built a body of which I could be proud.
While training for aesthetics I constantly scrutinized my physique. Nothing I did was good enough and no amount of progress could satisfy my unrealistic expectations.
Once I started training for performance, though, everything began to fall into place:
For the first time in my life I actually loved how I looked naked.
My overall athletic performance drastically improved and I dominated in a variety of sports.
While others around me were getting injured, I was able to stay healthy and perform at my best year-round.
Through training like an athlete I began to train with a purpose which not only helped me get stronger and healthier, but actually helped to decrease my body fat and increase my muscle mass.
In other words, I started to look like I actually lifted weights.
Best of all?
Training for performance helped me get rid of all lingering psychological issues with my body. No longer was I concerned with how I looked; instead, I was focused on how my body performed and nothing – I mean nothing – feels better than performing like an athlete.
7. Blaming Helps No One
You’re extremely dedicated to fitness.
You know that.
I know that.
Hell, pretty much everyone in the world knows that.
It’s important to understand, however, that not everyone is like you! You can’t expect everyone to be as passionate about fitness as you are. In fact, doing so will set you and all your future clients up for failure.
Plain and simple, if you want to help others achieve their fitness goals then you cannot blame them. You must encourage and work with them to facilitate their progress.
Getting mad and blaming people for what you might consider to be a lack of effort is the absolute worst thing you can do.
Listen, encourage, and be empathetic. Only when you master those skills can you truly become a great coach.
8. Not Everyone is Ready to Change…and That’s O.K.!
It’s not your job to force people to make a change they aren’t ready to make.
You can listen, encourage, and support them in any way possible, but if they aren’t ready to make a change then you have no business trying to force them into it.
Remember this as you progress in your career: trying to force people to change is a futile endeavor.
Listening, encouraging, and showing empathy to facilitate their personal desire for change is the best thing you can do.
9. Your Goals Are Not Your Clients’
You might be a Powerlifter…but your client likely isn’t.
You might be a bodybuilder…but your client likely isn’t.
You might be a fitness enthusiast…but your client likely isn’t.
More often than not, your clients will have different goals than what you – as a fitness enthusiast – aim to achieve.
Listen to your clients. Pay attention. Ask them what’s important to them and do everything within your power to help them achieve it…even if that means doing something that you don’t personally find appealing.
10. If You Aren’t Having Fun…You Aren’t Doing it Right
Life is stressful enough.
Between school, work, travel, familial responsibilities, and everything else that goes on, day-to-day life is extremely demanding.
Why make fitness more stressful than it has to be?
The reality is that fitness can, and should, be fun! Training – for both you and your clients – should be an enjoyable experience that facilitates long-term success. Similarly, a good nutrition plan should be simple, enjoyable, and easy to follow.
There’s no reason to make fitness a negative stressor within your life.
Find what works for YOU then laugh, have fun, and enjoy the process.
After all…what’s life without a little fun?
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